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Sad generations


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Being young is not half as fun or as big a deal as aunties and particularly uncles make it out to be.

A majority of them are well meaning parents, guardians and people with influence over the young but when it comes to real support they are as encouraging as affectionate but faithless and spiritless as spectators are to an upstart team competing against a giant. They cheer on the young ones to tackle the giant they couldn’t tame in their own youth. Meanwhile the giant – the ‘No fun please, we are a Muslim country’ philosophy – has gotten bigger and uglier.

The older ones can’t shake away their wasted youth and so they decide to have another go at it through younger generations. This time they spend all their energies stopping the youth from wasting their lives, and thus ensure that they waste their own all the way to the end. Losers, like diamonds, are forever. And losers beget losers. My parents’ generation did not have role models for me; mine doesn’t have any for the next. Instead, we continue to rely on rote method to encourage each other and so every new generation is a sequel to the previous one.

Today, we have two thirds of our population made up of youth. Having tens of millions of young people without a role model and without a clue is no fun for a state either, especially for a non-functioning and born-crooked management like that of the state of Pakistan. It’s a measure of the state’s perversion that the only use of youth bulge it finds is: it creates a web of ministries and departments for youth, and fills them with middle-aged men and women who like the authority and privileges associated with state organs, but are not competent to handle any kind of work.

Their job is to formulate, implement and improve policies on youth issues. It is obvious that they know what youth issues are. Don’t we all? All of us are, or have been young. And yet, every batch of policy makers has failed to see youth issues from the perspective of youth. Generation after generation of policy makers has been stuck in the rut of moral education, sports, employment, drugs and disease as the only youth issues. In reality, these are basic human rights and it is the foremost duty of a state to provide for and protect the rights of its citizens, of all ages. Why would the state fund a bureaucratic mammoth to dispense these rights to youth? Why isn’t there a ministry of children? Or a ministry of the elderly for that matter?

I know what youth issues are because I am youth. I am 23, a college student, living independently off money sent by my father monthly, though I have to supplement it through private tuition. I carry a valid CNIC and a license to ride the motorbike, I have ensured that my vote is registered and my name appears on the current voters’ list, I have copies of my domicile and character certificate attested by grade 18 government officers, and I’ve never missed or delayed my dues to the state-run college. I have lots of interaction with the state. The state has lots of ways to reach me. And yet it hasn’t been able to convey to me what all the state bodies created in my name are doing for me.

But I can tell the state exactly what the number one youth issue is: We are bored.

We have nothing constructive, gainful or uplifting to do in our spare time. There is plenty of advice available on what not to do, but precious little on how to have fun. We have been telling grown ups since we were kids: ‘I am bored’, ‘come play with me’, ‘let’s go out’ … but they seldom had time and so they gave us the television, Xbox, mobile phone, pizza, permission to go out, or a slap on the cheek and a lecture on reading school or madrassah books.

I went to four different schools and none of them had a playground. The college I go to has a single ground which is more a place to hang then play ball. I have not come across a hobby club in my entire academic career, nor a library that stocks anything but reference books and newspapers. There isn’t a teacher who engages us with literary and research activities or enlightening conversation. Outside the college, it’s a big mean world that has something for everyone: musical concerts, plays, sporting activities, luxury clubs, prostitution, imported whiskey … anything you can think of, and afford, is there for you.

For students like me for whom a bit of extra money in the pocket makes a difference between the usual bun kabab or a spicy chicken karahi with smoking naan and chilled drink, there aren’t many choices for entertainment without a chance of getting arrested. There’s tobacco and associated drugs like charas and heroin (older druggies tell me heroin is more easily available and is less expensive than it was in Zia ul Haq’s time), the cinema that shows x-rated flicks on Tuesdays and Saturdays, the theatre that specialises in verbal pornography, poondi at a mall, dating in a cubicle of an internet café, motorcycle stints on the inter city road, and cheap and cheerless mass media.

Food is the only diversion available, allowed, and encouraged across the board, and jihad is the only action/thrill in town. Little wonder, then, that the youth is attracted to offers of free food and free military training. That narrows their employment choices down to armed forces and militant organisations.

I am not wise like those who run the country but I may have said something important here. The suicide bum may just be blowing himself up out of boredom. The potential Nobel winning scientist may be killing his or her brain cells by banging their heels hard in a parade square. Petty crime, sexual deviance, drug abuse, spread of disease, suicide, a national mood swing between mindless jubilation and pitiful melancholy… might not be our issues if today’s older generation knew what to do with their spare time when they were my age. If they’d learnt something for the sheer joy of learning; if they could enjoy life enough to love and value it, if they could see and experience love rather than just hearing, reading and preaching about it with a lot of hatred in the background; they wouldn’t be the joyless middle aged men and women that they are, and I wouldn’t be on my way to becoming one.

My generation still has a few men and women left with the vigour and vitality of youth. Maybe they can turn into role models for the next generation and reverse the trend, Maybe they cannot, like the smart ones in the older generation who couldn’t.

Masud Alam is an Islamabad-based writer, columnist and journalism trainer. He can be reached at

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Masud Alam is an Islamabad-based writer, columnist and journalism trainer. He can be reached at

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (32) Closed

stranger Jan 11, 2013 09:41am
A looong negative article.
Masud Alam Jan 11, 2013 06:50pm
Good read, thanks. But I'm coming from home.
george Jan 11, 2013 03:50pm
Muslims are more religious than any other community, and also at the same time, muslims do more sinister crimes than any other community. In every non-muslim countries in the world, muslims have a much higher prison population compared to their share of the population. This is true in India, and every country in Europe.
Masud Alam Jan 11, 2013 07:20pm
MSH I wish you luck in your endeavours to achieve whatever you set out to, and I assure you you WILL be a role model if you gave yourself, or others, or both, a sense of achievement.
Masud Alam Jan 11, 2013 07:30pm
Tell me what'll cheer you up ...
sridhar Jan 11, 2013 12:02pm
We all just like a frog in the well, we can't realise the outside the world living in a dome, we learn from our surroundings and realise the whole world, Even if we go out, Our identity has been already identified, which is not ours. We more busy in pointing out each others flaws instead of growing ourselves and helping each. I have observed their is unwritten law which is followed by high class people they help each other in every sect and common man fight with each other and making sure that common people always lie on ground. Our home is the first school where we learn most but still. May be this could be the reason why high class people call us mass. there are some people invented middle class for their sastisfaction to differentiate themselves.
ahmad butt Jan 11, 2013 09:21am
honesty is the way to go, i dont like hollow lies and speeches of our leaders who have not delivered. We all need a reality check of where the country is heading and what responsibilities lie ahead.
Krishna Jan 11, 2013 03:31am
In any given situation, there is an opportunity. Change your attitude, you change the world. Try to help the less previlaged. Help the students by .giving tuition. Play chess to pass time and eto ntertain. Read books.
Amaathya Jan 11, 2013 09:34am
No libraries is the saddest loss for kids, kids need lots of books, comics, novels, comedy books, science and invention books , literature. And this problem is not only in Pakistan, but also in India and USA . Encourage your kids to read lots and invent something in their holidays. The joy of learning is the greatest joy in the world
Sajid Jan 11, 2013 12:42pm
Judge Philip B. Gilliam of Denver, Co. wrote in the South Bend Tribune, Sunday, Dec. 6, 1959. --------------------------- Always we hear the plaintive cry of the teen-ager. What can we do?...Were can we go? The answer is GO HOME! Hang the storm windows, paint the woodwork. Rake the leaves, mow the lawn, shovel the walk. Wash the car, learn to cook, scrub some floors. Repair the sink, build a boat, get a job. Help the minister, priest, or rabbi, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army. Visit the sick, assist the poor, study your lessons. And then when you are through - and not too tired - read a book. Your parents do not owe you entertainment. Your city or village does not owe you recreational facilities. The world does not owe you a living...You owe the world something. You owe it your time and your energy and your talents so that no one will be at war or in poverty or sick or lonely again. Grow up; quit being a crybaby. Get out of your dream world and develop a backbone, not a wishbone, and start acting like a man or a lady. You're supposed to be mature enough to accept some of the responsibility your parents have carried for years. They have nursed, protected, helped, appealed, begged, excused, tolerated and denied themselves needed comforts so that you could have every benefit. This they have done gladly, for you are their dearest treasure. But now, you have no right to expect them to bow to every whim and fancy just because selfish ego instead of common sense dominates your personality, thinking and request. In Heaven's name, grow up and go home! --------------
MSH Jan 11, 2013 08:22am
Maybe I missed the point, but we Pakistanis are always ready with an excuse. If it is role models we need look at Imran Khan, Edhi, the Nishan i Haider recipients, A Q Khan, Sadequin, Mohsin Hamid, ibn i insha, Habib Jali, Faizan Ahmed Faizan, Ayesha Jalal, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, Qurratul ein Haider , Zubeida Mustafa, et al, the myriad of poets, authors, artists, judges, lawyers, human right activists, peace advocates, social entrepreneurs, and others too numerous to mention, who have contributed to the kaleidoscope of our society. Who were their role models? Why can't they be yours? Stop whinnying and start doing something about it. Get off your derri
Samreen Jan 11, 2013 08:05am
This is a depressing read. Instead of cheering youngsters up, you have painted the most grim picture ever.
MSH Jan 11, 2013 08:03am
Utter rubbish, it is up to the individual to find alternate means to entertain themselves. At a late stage in life I took up a musical instrument to learn, a new language to speak, a new book to read. I don't need role models for that. The youth needs to take the initiative, go teach a child, sweep the street or sing a song. What is there to stop you but your own indolent attitude.
Naheed Iqbal Jan 11, 2013 02:38am
I agree 100% with the author of the author of this article
Sandip Jan 10, 2013 10:44pm
In our continent kids are never taught how to enjoy life. They have only one thing to do, study or work and may be some play. So one never learns how to enjoy life and do something with free time. I am one of those guys, so I end up working in office for 12 to 14 hours. But this has caused my boss to pay me more money :-( so now I make more money but still cant enjoy with that money.
Md Imran Jan 10, 2013 04:10pm
Masud bhai, the holy Quran and kalimas have all the answers one seeks. I always advise youngsters to read the kalimas and think about it, debate it during their spare time and not waste time watching movies or engaging in other haraam activities.
Addy Jan 10, 2013 11:41pm
Hmmm....somehow, you look older than 23 in your photo. But you're spot-on about the role-model thing. I live in the U.S. and that's one thing the youth over here has no shortage of.
Lawman Jan 10, 2013 09:10pm
By international law, titles cannot be copyrighted, hence technically he is not plagiarizing anything and doesn't have to acknowledge it.
QR Naqvi Jan 11, 2013 07:27am
nicely put into words Masud.
Cyrus Howell Jan 11, 2013 12:36am
"To some generations much is given. Of other generations much is expected..." Franklin Roosevelt
peddarowdy Jan 11, 2013 12:44pm
You are not getting the Author's point. In India, there are movies, malls buzzing with activity, co-education, pubs, theme restaurants, theme parks, water parks, tourists, tourist destinations(like Goa, Pondicherry, Kashmir). Kids do have options. I don't know what kind of environment you have grown in. Yes, there is a rat race, its present in Pakistan too. But, no one can race ALL THE TIME! They need outlets to relieve their energy and stress. For me, its unthinkable to not to have an option of gulping a few beers with my friends at a local pub. If you decide to change your lifestyle tomorrow, you can do so, but Pakistanis are stuck. At one point in time, Bollywood was banned and theatres virtually disappeared in Pakistan. Can such a thing ever happen in India? Not a chance, its too vibrant and colourful.
Afif Naeem Jan 11, 2013 12:15am
This is very true picture of youth in the country. I sounds very sad, but it is sadly true.
Masud Alam Jan 11, 2013 12:45pm
Thanks Lawman, you are a life saver. This is the only law I (now) know that has kept me out of, rather than putting me in, trouble.
Ali Jan 10, 2013 08:07pm
The youth around the world are bored, this not a Pakistan-specific problem. I also note your article for a complete lack of constructive suggestions as to alleviating "youth boredom". Also, it is unfortunate that your school didnt have a play ground, but if you use your imagination, you dont need a play ground or a PlayStation. Thousands of children all over Pakistan demonstrate this fact by playing cricket in their streets with nothing but a plank of wood and a plastic ball. I ask you, what exorbitantly expensive equipment do you need to play those most cherished Pakistani past-times: Goolly Danda and Baraf-Pani? Additionally, I detest the connotation that "food" is poor entertainment. Some of my fondest memories were formed with my friends and family over a single cup of tea- you dont need "sex, drugs and rock n' roll" to enjoy life. Bill Clinton, who is a Rhodes Scholar and became a US President, says that when he was growing up, his family could'nt afford a TV, so he learnt to entertain himself by making friends and being sociable. Any one who thinks that it's the government's fault that they are bored needs to get their priorities straight.
Cynical Jan 10, 2013 07:27pm
Every son thinks he is wiser than his father and so his son will think of him. Its the ways of man.
Sarfaraz Jan 10, 2013 06:58pm
Dear Mr. Alam: Please at least acknowledge that you plagirise the title of your blog by translating famous urdu novel Udas Naslain=Sad Generations!
Koi-Kon Jan 10, 2013 02:52pm
Great observation...Please ask Musaddiq why I have said so..
Atheoi khan Jan 10, 2013 03:32pm
Good one
ZH hashmi Jan 10, 2013 06:11pm
what a real saddist you are I feel pity on your thinking
introspecteeve Jan 10, 2013 06:09pm
"I went to four different schools and none of them had a playground." Tragedy of lives of most of the kids in Pakistan. Its a fact that Schools only promote rote. There is literally no emphasis on sports at school level therefore no personality development of kids. Infact current mindset is that those kids who try to play any kind of sport in school are "nalaik bachay".
umesh bhagwat Jan 12, 2013 05:27am
It was bliss to be young!
Asma Ahmad Jan 12, 2013 06:25pm
i agree with Judge Phillip completely. but to follow his words through, we need our elders to let go of us, to trust us, to let us risk and to allow us to make our mistakes and be responsible. how are we supposed to do any good for the world if the people who helped in bringing us into it don't allow us to do so?